Neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele are serious birth defects of the brain and spine that occur during the first month of pregnancy when the neural tube fails to close completely. Randomized controlled trials and observational studies have shown that adequate daily consumption of folic acid before and during early pregnancy considerably reduces the risk for NTDs. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that women capable of becoming pregnant consume 400 µg of folic acid daily for NTD prevention. Furthermore, fortification of staple foods (e.g., wheat flour) with folic acid has decreased folate-sensitive NTD prevalence in multiple settings and is a highly cost-effective intervention.
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